At odds with goals

I think I have a mixed relationship with goals. On the one hand, I find goals important because they give you focus and structure. Whether it’s for the day or for a conversation. It gives me more control over the outcome, so I can plan better and also know when I’m done. On the other hand, I find that goals restrict me, take away my freedom. Especially big goals. What if the goal becomes irrelevant and I don’t notice it because I’m so focused on it or the goal limits me and doesn’t allow me to do other things because it takes up all the space. I did a little digging in my past for an explanation and for that I have to tell you about a friend.

Goal and vocation with hurdles

A school friend of mine already knew at the age of 13 what she wanted to become. A doctor. She had a goal. A goal for her professional future at an age when I had no idea what my future would bring. One day I found one profession great, another day another. I was fascinated. Everything in her life was geared towards that goal. Every summer holidays she did an internship at the city hospital. She chose the science branch in high school. She chose biology as her advanced course. She did everything she could to get closer to that goal. And then her grade point average didn’t match the NC for medicine. Her goal remained. She started training to be a nurse and applied to all the medical universities every year. After 3 years and completed nurse training, she got a place at a university. She found it difficult to study. She was always more of a practical person. Then she failed the exam to enter the main studies. She did not give up. 1 year later she passed it in the 2nd attempt. 4 years later with a lot of cursing she finally made it and was able to start her residency, start paying back student loan and save a little. 3 years later came a child and another 4 years later she finally completes the residency. We have the 3rd Covid-19 wave, she is cursing about 48h duties, night shifts, duties she has to take because colleagues are sick and a poor Covid policy and lack of protection of medical staff at the hospital. She cut hours to somehow have time to breathe with commuting and child and partner who is also a doctor. Part-time and medicine somehow don’t get along, though. “Eyes open when choosing a career,” she said the other day.

And I stand next to it and am still fascinated. My fascination has mainly to do with the fact that I never had this plan of my life. Never followed a goal so passionately. Never had to overcome major hurdles to get to a goal I had set for myself. When I look at my career path in comparison, it is filled with options, possibilities and constantly changing directions. Going with the flow seems to be more my motto.

Fun or goals? Most importantly: Freedom!

During school, my only goal was to do well with my grades – because it gave me freedom. With good grades, I could choose what I wanted to do. I didn’t do internships at companies that fit a big goal. My time was filled with reading, choir rehearsals and travel, and a little vacation work. I didn’t choose the science branch with a goal in mind like my friend did, but I chose the arts branch and did theater. Because I enjoyed it. Without a goal, just because I liked it. Instead of experiments and immersion in STEM topics, it was about shaping rehearsal work, discussing interpretations, developing characters, and working together as a team. I didn’t choose my dual degree because I had a big goal associated with it. I had heard classmates talk about it. They would have applied. It would be quite cool, you have an apprenticeship and study. Practice and theory combined. I thought that was good. Studying and earning money didn’t sound bad. So I looked for a dual university with an intercultural focus, applied to a company and it worked out. What was the goal of the program? Something with business administration. Thus I keep my freedom and can do anything with it as long as the grades are right. After 3 years I had studied in English, had a double degree, knew how a medium-sized company works, could work under pressure because we had exams every 2 weeks, knew how to get by on my own in a foreign country because of my semester abroad and had no debts.

About being found

However, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had no goal. I was then also found by my first job – not the other way around. Job boards make it possible. Create an account, upload your resume, get found by recruiters. And so, at the age of 21, with 2 suitcases and the promise of an employment contract, I moved to Munich. The following 13 years were similar to my life until then. What I did, I did well to very well. The results spoke for themselves. Promotions followed. Did I work towards them? No, they were offered to me more because they were part of the system and I functioned well in that system. Because I knew it would open all the doors for me again – building new areas. Changing roles, getting external training, flexible working, freedom to do anything. It probably would have continued that way if I hadn’t lost my job. Restructuring. I was no longer needed. And suddenly I had time. Suddenly I didn’t have a system to function in. Suddenly I had to figure out what I wanted. That was a year ago. I still haven’t found a goal. But a passion – to develop potential. I still don’t have the one profession that defines my life. But many different ideas that fascinate me. I still don’t have a master plan, but that’s OK. I have learned a lot:

1. About me

Who am I without a system? What fascinates me? What do I want to spend my time with? What do I need to be happy?

2. About my relationships with family members

Who am I as a woman, mother, child, wife? How do I want to shape relationships? Which values accompany me? What beliefs do I have?

3. About time

Time is precious. You can’t buy it, stop it, or save it.

Time is value-free. You give it value. 

Time heals all wounds. You need it to process and to say goodbye.

Everything has its time. The grass does not grow faster if you pull on it (African proverb).

And with all that I have learned on my way with all the branchings, detours, dead ends or even opportunities, I have built a life in which I feel comfortable. Where goals are part of my life, but they don’t rule my life. And that feels good.

What are your experiences with goals? I look forward to your comment or a message.

Yours, Franziska

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